Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Bay Area native, partner win fourth WTA doubles title

   Doubles pair Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who barely survived the first round, earned their fourth WTA title today.
   The fifth seeds from Japan topped eighth-seeded Hayley Carter of Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open in the United Arab Emirates.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, escaped four match points in their 4-6, 7-5 [12-10] victory over Andrea Klepac of Slovenia and 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the opening round. 
   Aoyama and Shibahara also ousted top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Hsieh and Krejcikova are ranked first and seventh, respectively, in doubles.
   "It was definitely a roller coaster," Shibahara, the 2016 U.S. Open girls doubles champion with ex-UCLA teammate Jada Hart, said of the march through the draw on wtatennis.com. "There were some match points to save in our first match, and I think that really helped us through our next rounds. Even if we're down, we can come back. Even playing Su-Wei and Barbora, they're such high-level players, so we just had to take it one point at a time, and I think that really helped us.
   "For me, today was definitely tough because (Carter and Stefani) are probably my closest friends on tour, and Hayley is like my family."
   Aoyama and Shibahara, who also teamed to win St. Petersburg last year and Tianjin and Moscow in 2019, split $20,890. Carter and Stefani — former All-Americans at North Carolina and Pepperdine, respectively — shared $13,370.
   Aoyama and Shibahara will attain career highs of No. 18 (up four places) and No. 20 (up three spots), respectively.
   Fourth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus dominated unseeded Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-2, 6-2 in 65 minutes for her third consecutive singles title. Sabalenka, formerly coached by longtime Northern California resident Dmitry Tursunov, ended 2020 by winning Ostrava (Czech Republic) and Linz (Austria).
   Sabalenka, 22, will improve three notches to a career-high No. 7.
   Australian Open qualifying — No. 16 seed Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt routed Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes to advance to the main draw.
   Sherif, 24, earned her second main-draw berth in a Grand Slam tournament. She also qualified for the French Open last fall and lost in the opening round to second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the third set.
   The Australian Open is scheduled for Feb. 8-21, three weeks later than usual, at its traditional home in Melbourne.
   UTR Pro Tennis SeriesVivian Ovrootsky of San Jose, Calif., defeated Emma Sun of Newbury Park in the Los Angeles area 6-1, 6-3 in a matchup of high school juniors in a $25,000 tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. Ovrootsky, who has verbally committed to the University of Texas for 2022, finished 3-0 in Group E.
   Priya Nelson, 15, of Sacramento, Calif., beat Erica Ekstrand of Santa Monica, Calif., 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 to end up 1-2 in Group F.  Madison Weekley, a high school junior from Alamo in the the Bay Area headed to Saint Mary's in 2022 — lost to Jenna Defalco of Tustin, Calif., in the L.A. region 6-1, 6-1 to finish 0-3 in Group H.
   Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old pro from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, is scheduled to meet Ovrootsky in the quarterfinals of the first-place playoff on Thursday. Nelson and Tomi Main (1-2) of Seaside, Calif., advanced to the quarterfinals of the third-place playoff. Weekley was eliminated.

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